Friday, February 2, 2018

Immetrica and eCGlobal introduce Latin America’s most accurate ratings service
For more information, please contact:
Adriana Rocha <adriana_rocha (at) ecglobalsolutions.com>


eCGlobal Research Solutions, innovative consumer insights and big data analytics company, and Immetrica, audience-measurement systems engineering specialist, today announce Alldience, a new ratings service for Latin America, based on eCGlobal’s existing social media engagement and consumer panel with half a million active members served by dozens of pay-TV operators. The service will have by far the largest sample sizes available in any country in the region, bringing unparalleled accuracy to today’s multichannel realtime and timeshifted DVR / VOD / OTT media use. Based on a highly reliable smartphone-enabled ACR technology, the service will detect viewing in any environment in which the media audio remains intelligible, in realtime or timeshifted using any means for up to a year after broadcast.
For premium-channel operators, we offer channel-coverage ratings (ratings among their subscribers rather than the entire sample) when eCGlobal operates subsamples of its panel specific to them. We can also offer a behavioural definition of channel use, which, however, ignores viewers who have access to these channels but do not use them.
The unit of measurement will be a demographically described individual viewer, with a rich single-source set of descriptors such as income, education and occupation; social-media use and engagement; and consumer behaviour available to drill down further to the target or de facto audience, on a panregional, nationwide, or local-market scale. In addition to audience measurement for broadcasters, we plan to offer advertising spot ratings and competitive analysis of advertising flights.
Of particular interest to advertisers is the opportunity to engage panel members who have just watched designated content with a custom survey automatically pushed to the members’ smartphones in near-realtime, in what amounts to the world’s largest focus group.
The service will be delivered through a world-leading analytics platform capable of handling the large sample sizes; an optional cost-effective custom reporting service using Immetrica’s proprietary technology; and customized means for clients with needs beyond these.
A new panel and ratings service for unparalleled measurement of Latino US residents
We also announce today our intention to build a separate panel on the same technology for the more than 80% of Latino US residents with significant Spanish-language media consumption. Spanish-language media in the US have burgeoned even as the same segments in English have fragmented or declined, with the top television rating on some nights quite commonly earned by a Spanish-language network and pay-TV operators adding numerous Spanish-language channels. The new services will be the first to measure this growing demographic’s use of today’s choices of hundreds of pay-TV channels, DVR, VOD, OTT and social media.
Meet us at Media Insights 2018, February 6–8, Miami Beach
eCGlobal and Immetrica will be presenting the new platform during the Media Insights & Engagement Conference, Feb. 6th–8th, 2018 at the Miami Beach Resort and Spa Hotel (4833 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33141). https://marketing.knect365.com/media-insights/
About eCGlobal Research Solutions
eCGlobal Research Solutions is a pioneer and leader in online panels and digital market research solutions in the Latin America market. Its innovative cloud-based technology unlocks the power of consumer collaboration, combining social media, communities, mobile, gamification, surveys and big data analytics, all in a single platform. With offices in the US, Mexico and Brazil, the company’s mission is to help organizations make better business decisions, and develop better products and services, through co-creation and continuous collaboration with consumers. http://ecglobalsolutions.com
About Immetrica
Immetrica and its founder and CEO have been building audience research systems for more than three decades, serving major television, radio, pay-TV and DVR players around the world at a time of dramatic changes in the use of media, achieving several world and regional firsts, including first time-shifted viewing ratings in the US, first extrapolation of STBs to households in the world, and first adjustment for HD representativeness in the world.
We are a unique centre of expertise that sees measurement from all sides: those of the systems developer, the analytical user and the ancillary broadcast systems necessarily involved in the process. We believe that understanding the underlying need is crucial to developing successfully for it. All our developers, therefore, are not mere journeymen but are educated in audience measurement, having made a choice to practice in this field for the long term. They also contribute other key expertise to this, the first venture under our own brand, including radical optimisation of processing efficiency, the ability to fuse multiple data sources, and digital analysis of analogue data. http://immetrica.com

Monday, January 15, 2018

Squeeze play


Yes, squeezed more, just barely, and probably because around a couple of percent of advertising spend was relocated this year from online to TV by advertisers unhappy with the quality of targeting online.

But it’s the last gasp. The NFL has seen lower ratings because it’s been less interesting lately (in the opinion of those who would know the difference, of whom I’m not one), but it remains a major national sport in the US, and it is headed to SVOD/OTT with the lower-value prescheduled evening fixtures first. The more interesting, dynamically scheduled games currently on Fox and CBS will surely follow.

The league’s thirst for cash has demanded an ever more increasing subsidy from broadcasters and pay-TV operators even as margins permitting them to pay this subsidy have become static or started declining. As Margaret Thatcher warned early on in an argument against tolerance of inflation, it is easy to end up pricing yourself out of the market.

The difference between stopping poachers and sustainable harvesting

Facebook's announcement of a change to the newsfeed selection algorithm in favour of personal-network posts at the expense of posts from businesses was greeted with hysterical headlines such as “RIP Facebook News Feed for Publishers”.

Business/brand activity on Facebook will show up less, not be eliminated entirely. It will certainly not RIP; Facebook has jealous shareholders now and is not becoming noncommercial. Currently businesses are enjoying a free marketing ride on Facebook, and in so doing they reduce Facebook's utility to the owners of the very eyeballs they're after: a contemporary version of slash-and-burn agriculture that destroys the ecosystem it uses. The algorithm changes will reduce the extent of such poaching. And some portion of businesses' activity will probably be redirected into paid advertising. This could meaningfully enhance revenues even if only a small portion of current business activity becomes paid.

What we haven't seen so far is an acknowledgment of the negative effects of the current complex wall/newsfeed content selection algorithm. Since its introduction, the newsfeed has become unpredictable: reload and you'll see a largely different selection of posts, so you can never be sure you're fully caught up on those from even the sources most interesting to you. The feed sequence is frequently interrupted by repetitive promotional messages from Facebook itself. And there's no escape: changing the few available configuration parameters has little effect.

Users’ lack of control also harms the utility of Facebook and the common weal by downranking news organisations, which post extensively to social media in efforts to keep themselves vital and relevant, and in so doing keep us supplied with information despite, for many newspapers in the US, negative margins. They may post news free of charge to readers to promote themselves, drive subscriptions and keep their heads above water, but they’re not able to spend to push news stories as paid advertising; that’s a nonstarter, and a dangerous one for the country at that. If I cannot instruct the Facebook algorithm to maintain the prominence of, say, The Washington Post and Science Alert in my newsfeed, the feed loses much of its utility to me, and this perforce looks like someone has decided that he knows what I want better than I do. That, perhaps unintentionally, propels us right past the point of evil (as in Google’s “don’t be evil”) and into ideological totalitarianism. The end result is likely to be the decline of the social network in favour of another, as has happened many times before (to Compuserve, Delphi, AOL, MySpace).

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

When the little fish gradually, over time, eat the big fish

It’s rather obvious now that nonconventional (nonlinear, non-DVR) television will account for a large share of viewing even in markets in which it doesn’t already. South America is expected to grow to almost 16% VOD/OTT penetration by 2021 (apparently excluding DVR integrated into pay-TV systems), with the other lagging countries and regions, such as Japan and South Asia, exceeding 50% by that time. Some pedestrian thoughts on what this means.
  • Broadband is VOD and OTT’s partner in a virtuous cycle: it both enables them and is made necessary by them.
  • With technologies such as fixed 4GLTE and others in development, broadband could be deployed at infrastructure costs well short of the monumental expense of burying cable, especially under established cities. The same advance—inexpensive deployment, and also driven by a “killer application”, earlier enabled cellular telephony across much of the third world, out of all proportion to local economic strength, usually vaulting entirely over wireline telephony.
  • DBS/DTH (unless integrated into a broadband or mobile offering) has little place in this model and is thus probably moribund or subject to massive contraction. The need for broadband eats into disposable income that also would fund DBS, and the need for it is diminished as content becomes available on cable or standalone VOD/OTT. As major sports components in the wealthiest countries fall like dominos to standalone VOD/OTT distribution (such as ESPN in the U.S.), the sole advantages of DBS providers might be the last few exclusives (typically major sports events) and customer service. That is unlikely to suffice for continued economic viability in ten or twenty years.
  • Conversely, cable tied to broadband delivery, in which the extra cost of television service is modest, may prolong its life. It will feed the need for conventional TV use that many viewers still have (an aging cohort, to be sure, but quite young on average). The question for many viewers is major sports events, the extent of the VOD selection, and the extra money spent in addition to the broadband-only price.
  • Television is headed towards a smaller but higher-value selection. This has two motivators:
  1. One is subscribers’ interest in paying only for what they use rather than hundreds of channels they don’t want. This is served by either services like Netflix and its local workalikes with very broad selections for a very low price, or more expensive services like Dish Network’s Sling in the U.S. with a limited or subscriber-controllable selection of channels. In the first case, stuffing of low-local-value U.S.-targeted content into services in other countries, currently a large portion of multinationally offered programming in which all U.S. studios engage, is economically insignificant; in the second case, it’s not even there.
  2. Then there is both OTT providers’ and pay-TV channels’ need to stand out, generate buzz, differentiate themselves from the competition. They have all gravitated to the the poor (anyway, resource-limited) man’s route to world domination, which can be fairly called the Motown Records approach: pick a few star properties and pump all your production and promotion money into them. That’s what we’ve been seeing from Netflix, Amazon, AMC, even the Travel Channel, and it has worked very well in the U.S., generating more interest in any non-premium-channel content than there’s been in many years.
  • Many or most countries already have incumbent, local OTT services, for whom it is natural to defend from the onslaught of foreigners (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video) by using their strength in local content. The tactic is the same for the other side: criticised broadly for undertaking its international invasion on the strength of little non-English-language programming and insufficient rights to use what it had in its new countries, Netflix is planning to invest in locally targeted and produced content. Previously, Twentieth Century Fox as a feature film distributor has successfully become the first U.S. player to do so on a substantial scale, so the model can work. This would reinforce the potential for the medium to evolve from a steamroller of globalisation and boob tube into a culturally sensitive, appointment-viewing, dare one say, art form.
  • As recently covered here, advertisers have tried to throw much of their money at targeted Web advertising and were largely unsatisfied, because of poor targeting, lack of independent auditing, and possibly other reasons. This means that there are advertising budgets in search of appropriate vehicles. At the same time, as also recently mentioned here, there are no guarantees of profitability for everyone as the supply side of the content market reconfigures, or even when it settles down, because the new model will be subject to different costs and revenues. Can standalone VOD/OTT providers attract advertising by targeting better on the basis of the usage patterns they see from specific user accounts? Will a market more accustomed to conventional demographics accept such indirect indication? Some OTT companies (Netflix) may be as unwilling as HBO to accept advertising, but for others whether, how much and in which format they play ads may depend on the money they stand to earn—and how much they are willing to risk user displeasure.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Is television sustainable beyond its declining conventional variety?

“In 2015 worldwide TV sales fell by 11%, young people watched 10 minutes less television a day and in the US research showed that 62% of adults watched online video every day.” But viewing on other screens more than compensated. http://www.euronews.com/2016/04/06/how-is-tv-consumption-changing-around-the-world

The TV sales drop speaks loudly: the continuing increase in population and much faster increase in sufficiently wealthy population, the change from analogue SD CRTs to digital HD flat panels, and the dampening of demand cyclicality by the desynchronization of the economic cycles of various countries from each other should all have caused a substantial increase in sales. Eventually the diminution of conventional TV will reach even parts of the world where it is relatively minor today.


It is facile to say that viewing will shift to different sources or screens. The more interesting question is the economics. How many independent OTT services from channel operators can be sustained separately from each other or in substantially à la carte models like Dish Network’s Sling? And if they cannot, and must rely on aggregators like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, will the low pricing deplete revenue until the more popular programming cannot be paid for? So far, both traditional broadcasters and the OTT aggregators have adapted, but this does not mean that they always will. At some point there might be a shakeout just as macroeconomics predicts (easy market entry leads to minimal profits).

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Is it smart to use data from smart TVs?

Multichannel News has an article (It’s Time to Get the Return-Path Data Together) by Jane Clarke of CIMM on the complementary nature of audience data from STBs (set-top boxes) and smart TVs piped through ACR (automated content recognition). Generally, it’s a good idea, but some significant qualifiers come to mind:
  • VOD can be measured through STB data collection, and more than one data collection platform already supports this, if implemented correctly. However, it is unclear what any measurement on the playback device might add to proper design of the VOD system (such that all play and trickplay, and not just the original order for the programme, is reported to the server farm) and measuring from there. A smart TV, though, is going to capture some OTT traffic from devices connected using the likes of Google Chormecast, Amazon Fire TV and Roku, but unless measurement on the playback device or at the server farm is available, this will be a partial accounting—without any means of determining how partial; the proverbial little knowledge that is dangerous.
  • Likewise, the power state of the monitor, not currently available from an STB, would pertain to an unknown percentage of viewing (unless matched to same-STB data) and not be very usable for capping viewing reported by STBs. It would be far better if the STB-based data collection systems were enhanced to poll the monitor power state over HDMI, which will now be the default connection to UHD/4k as well as HD monitors. Then, as SD diminishes to zero over the coming years (faster in some countries than others), we would have real data in most cases in which currently we must use statistical approximation.
  • All smart TV ACR can reliably provide is the programme identity, and quite likely not in a format relatable to pay-TV operations (as there is little chance of a common reliable identifier; such an animal could exist but licensing policies are a big obstacle). Programmes alone are not sufficient in the present environment, in which media use is still largely organised around channels and rights flow through them as well.
  • Following Vizio’s comeuppance in court in the U.S. for undisclosed snooping, this practice has gained potential to become a slow meme, with even Consumer Reports explaining how to get rid of it. Especially with help from data-protection-sensitive Europe, this might become a common concern a little like the falsehood, often repeated in a certain genre of fiction, that a powered-off cellphone with a charged battery in place can be used to determine the location of its user. How much opt-out from measurement would render smart TVs not worth the trouble?

Internet advertising is being questioned, and some questions have no clear answers

Just as Internet advertising reached spending parity with television, large advertisers started doubting its effectiveness and cutting back, writes Nicole Sinclair in Yahoo Finance (Digital ads aren't working for big consumer brands). She lists two developments last year: a study that claimed the existence of rebates undisclosed to advertisers (kickbacks under another name) from media operators to advertising and media buying agencies (although not specific to Internet media), and Facebook’s admission that it included video views of under three seconds, exaggerating the overall viewing it reported by potentially as much as 80% (whatever that means). The article cites reductions in Internet spending by large consumer goods advertisers of, at most, 1.3% this year. Not much, perhaps, but the direction should give pause.

Individual advertising delivery cannot be measured by sample, but only by a census. This currently can only be self-administered by the carrier, and that has a credibility problem inherently, not just because of abuses. When chief executives of the half-dozen remaining global ad and media buying agencies, like Martin Sorrell of WPP, say that “the player and referee cannot be the same person” and the media operators should not “mark their own homework” (a phrase heard a lot lately), their companies presumably cannot then initiate the spending of large portions of clients’ budgets on such media. Can targeted digital advertising survive the lack of objective verification, never mind transparency of targeting decisions?


Furthermore, even objective reporting and realistic standards (unlike Facebook’s deeming of a video view any exposure longer than three seconds) might not rescue targeted advertising on the Internet. The current crop of targeting algorithms is rather obviously useless, with much irrelevance and ad nauseum repetitiveness of ads (often from an inappropriate competitor) for purchases already made. This is so despite cookies and tracking by the likes of Facebook. On Facebook itself, the problem is different—the complete irrelevance of most advertising messages—but it still means inappropriate expenditure in which advertisers pay high CPMs for targeting but get, at best, scattershot outdoor billboard delivery. Can targeting be seriously improved in a short time?